The Kindness Campaign
Welcome to the Kindness Campaign
The Kindness Campaign is a bullying and violence prevention program for schools and communities. I developed The Kindness Campaign in 1994 during my tenure at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs where I directed the Counseling and Human Services Program in the School of Education. The Kindness Campaign began as an experiment in my graduate classes and, over the space of seven years, grew into a community, regional and national program that was eventually adopted by 13 different communities and about 700 schools.
Here you see me with Leo the Kindhearted Lion, the mascot of the Campaign. I, with Leo strapped in the passenger seat beside me, gathered many smiles and surprised looks from other drivers and we drove around Colorado Springs and along the Front Range of Colorado. We two Kindness Buddies participated in many school assemblies, met with teachers and administrators and visited with many children in schools that adopted the Campaign.
My friends kidded me about my unusual friendship with Leo, and called Leo my “alter ego.” I always grinned and joyfully admitted it when they teased me.
Leo is a motorized robot who rides a small remote-controlled tricycle. He has a built-in microphone so that I can speak through Leo to the children from the back of the room. A built-in tape recorder allows him to sing pre-recorded Kindness songs to the children. Children loved on Leo so much that they hugged him so much that all of his whiskers disappeared!
As part of his community service work at the University, I began by creating program curriculum materials for preschool, elementary and middle schools and then, with the help local CBS television affiliate, expanded it into churches, businesses and governmental agencies and the larger community.
How The Kindness Campaign Started
In the summer of 1992, Janae and I reduced our belongings down to 17 boxes (12 of which were books) and left Colorado Springs to work for the United Nations on a project in Czechoslovakia. That fall the state of Colorado voted to amend its constitution to restrict the rights of gays and lesbians. Largely the result of a fear campaign spearheaded by a Colorado Springs group called Colorado for Family Values, news of this amendment reverberated around the world.
First, a little background about Colorado Springs. It is the home of over 71 fundamentalist Christian organizations, over 100 thousand military personnel and dependents, the Olympic Training Center and The Air Force Academy. Bill Moyers hosted a PBS documentary on Colorado Springs and after interviewing a number of its leaders, called it Ground Zero of the next Holy War.
After this amendment passed in the fall of 1992, we still proudly told people in Bratislava, Slovakia where we were living at the time that we were from Colorado. Their reply was Oh, that’s the hate state. How could you live there Although the U.S. Supreme Court struck down this amendment before it ever took effect, the damage to the common ground in the community was extensive. When we returned to Colorado Springs in the spring of 1993, we found a community divided with two camps that fired insults at each other through the media.
I decided that since this was my community, I either was going to be part of the problem or part of the solution. I took some time to search for ways I come intervene and even offered to help mediate the conflict. When that failed, I sought a way to restore common ground that had been destroyed as the result of this amendment. Finally, I hit on the idea of using kindness as the tool to help restore the civility and mutual respect that seemed missing. My idea was that thousands of acts of kindness go unnoticed each day because the media focuses on the violence and other bad news.
I decided to test my idea in one of my graduate classes at the university where I was teaching. I asked my students to keep track of the number of acts of kindness that they do in the next week and I supplied them with log sheets to record the acts. The 20 students came back with over 250 acts of kindness logged in for the week. I asked them to keep logging, and after three weeks, I knew I was right as their totals continued to climb.
I hypothesized that if I could get about 20% of the population of Colorado Springs focusing kindness and mutual respect, it would shift the consciousness of the city. In order to do that I knew I needed help from the media and I needed to know if the conservative Christian majority of the community would support this idea. I talked privately to a fundamentalist Christian minister that I knew about the idea and asked him if he that his colleagues would see this as some kind of new age program. He thought for a minute and then quoted several Bible verses and then said, No, kindness is theologically sound.
Garnering Media Support for the Kindness Campaign
With that concern settled, I went to talk to the News Director at the local CBS affiliate, someone I knew through a video project he had helped us produce. I told him I was interested in the station become the media sponsor of the kindness campaign I was starting. I explained how the news shows on his station could feature positive news stories and could help promote acts of kindness in the community. He was mildly interested, but I could see that my request was a stretch for a traditional network affiliate. He told me he would think about it, discuss my idea with others at the station and get back to me. I assumed from the tone of the meeting, that I might not even hear from him again.
However, I got very lucky. That afternoon on his station, Oprah Winfrey did her whole show on the effects of random acts of kindness on people. To make a long story short, the station agreed to be the media sponsor and remained in that capacity for over five years. They set up a kindness line where people could call in and report acts of kindness that they witnessed. Then they ended their evening news shows by playing one of these recorded messages. They also followed up on some of the more interesting ones and turned them into news features.
The kindness line caught on immediately and the station had hundreds of call each week. After six months, they conducted a viewer survey and found to their amazement that over 70% of their viewers knew about the Kindness Campaign and 75% of those said they thought the Campaign was having a significant effect on reducing violence in the community.
Another stroke of luck helped heal the rift between the two polarized groups in the community. The station agreed to tape and play Public Service Announcements during their broadcast day about the Kindness Campaign. They asked me to submit a list of names of key people to tape these announcements. Among a group of community leaders, I selected were the leader of the Colorado for Family Values group and the leader for the Citizen’s Project, the group that opposed the amendment to limit gay rights.
KKTV’s Community Relations Coordinator invited both of these men to the studio at the same time to tape the PSA and when they saw each other, they turned to leave. The station manager, who knew both of them, persuaded them to stay and do the 30 second PSA. They stood side by side and talked about the importance of kindness in the community. This PSA played repeatedly in prime time and throughout the broadcast day. Buoyed by the success of this ice-breaking meeting, these two men decided to continue meeting for lunch on a regular basis. This led to the formation of a project called “dialogue dinners: where a group, chosen because of their diversity, agreed to meet for three dinners together to discuss common areas of agreement and disagreement. The idea caught on and they organized over 400 of these dinners in the community in the next several years. Later it became a non-profit called “Food For Thought” and it still is organizing these dinners in the area.
The Currency of The Kindness Campaign
The currency of the Campaign a Kindness Button that people get for signing a pledge card to do an act of kindness for themselves or someone else. The instructions are to wear the button and to look for an opportunity to pass it on by catching someone else doing a kind act.
We then began to make presentation in the community and in schools. We made over 400 of these during the first five years of the Campaign and we started programs in over 125 local schools. We created a whole set of program guides for schools, pre-schools, families and for other communities that wanted to organize similar programs.
Shortly after the program began, I had an opportunity to speak before the city council. I told them that my vision was that someday Colorado Springs would be known as a Community of Kindness. I said I hoped to see signs at the airport and along the major highways leading into the city that would say, “Welcome to Colorado Springs, a community of kindness. The home of over 350,000 kind people and a few sore heads.” The council members seemed uncomfortable with my vision, except for one Councilwoman who smiled at me and winked. Little did I know that two years later that council woman would be the mayor and her first act as mayor was to declare her intention to restore kindness and civility to city government. A year later, Colorado Springs became one of three U. S. cities to be named a Community of Kindness. The others selected were Dallas, Texas and Angel’s Camp, California.
The Impact of The Kindness Campaign
The impact of the Kindness Campaign was immediate in schools where bullying, put-downs and other forms of unkindness were affecting the learning climate. Some kids were actually afraid to go to school and about 10% dropped out before graduating because of the bullying and harassment they received at school.
Again, my hypothesis was that if you focus everyone’s attention on the positive things that were happening much of the unkind behavior would go away. The results of research we conducted showed that there was an immediate drop of over 30% in referrals to the office in the three weeks following the introduction of the Kindness Campaign in a school. The long-term results showed a yearlong drop of 26% from the previous year. Area businesses also adopted schools and paid for the time and materials needed to bring the Kindness Campaign to that school. Some companies actually paid their employees for the time they spent volunteering in their adopted school.
The other areas of the community that responded to the Campaign were the neighborhood associations and the churches. Several key neighborhood associations conducted an annual nomination and awards process to identify the kindest people in the neighborhood in various categories, like Kindest Senior Citizen. The area churches took part in an annual Interfaith Celebration of Kindness where each faith group presented the ways kindness is part of their faith community. After the service, we held a potluck dinner with each faith tradition bringing some food to share that was special to their tradition.
Making The Kindness Campaign A Community Affair
We ended each year with the Community of Kindness Awards Ceremony where children nominated the kindest adults, adults nominated the kindest children and youth, people nominated large and small businesses and non-profits for their contributions to the creation of a Community of Kindness. Finally, high and low profile individuals received Humanitarian Awards for their contributions to the community.
All of these things contributed to a major shift in consciousness in this community. Over about a six-year period, the Campaign spread to 12 other cities and eventually to over 600 schools in the U. S. and Canada. I had a great deal of fun and a good feeling, seeing that one person with an idea can still make a difference. One of my greatest compliments came from two eighth grade boys who were sitting outside their middle school when I arrived to give them more kindness buttons. I over-heard one boy say to the other, “Hey! There goes the kindness dude.” I like that title.
Purchasing the Kindness Campaign Materials
Initially the Kindness Campaign curriculum materials were sold in large three-ring binders that were mailed out to customers. In 2006 I converted all of the Campaign’s materials into a downloadable e-book format that are available for purchase by contacting me directly, making them instantly available to teachers, school administrators, parents and community organizers.
Kindness Campaign's Statement of Beliefs
It is my belief that the Kindness Campaign is an effective way to curb youth and peer violence and help restore a sense of neighborliness and community. It also is an excellent way to strengthen the civil society, which forms the foundation for our democracy. It follows a set of basic beliefs and principles.
It has to:
Focus on positive behavioral alternatives to violence, aggression and alienation.
Be carried out with high integrity with those involved being able to model what they are trying to teach others.
Be simple and direct, free from jargon and gimmicks.
Be implemented at a grass-roots level, as well as involve key community leaders who are models of kindness and trust.
Have media support and have daily exposure to the general public.
Have dedicated volunteers who believe in the vision of the Kindness Campaign.
It needs to be developed in an organic way by following the unique ebbs and flows of energy around the project as it unfolds in each community.
Be designed around the unique needs of each community.
Be fun for everybody involved and help people find more meaning and enjoyment in their lives.
Be planned as a long-range intervention that can be sustained over at least five years.
Have on-going formal ways to evaluate the effectiveness of the Campaign.
Kindness Campaign Resources
Here are the materials you need in order to implement the Kindness Campaign:
Creating A Community of Kindness: A Community Organizer’s Guide
Bullying & School Violence: The Tip of the Iceberg
Kind Beginnings: An Activity Guide for Fostering Kindness in Pre-schools
Raising Kind Kids: An Activity Guide for Fostering Kindness in Families
Rush to Judgment: The Trial of Eric Harris & Dylan Klebold, a screenplay
If you wish to purchase any of these materials please contact Dr. Barry Weinhold directly.
Kindness Campaign: Building a Community of Kindness
This downloadable ebook is for community organizers who are interested in setting up a community-based violence prevention program. It is a step-by-step description of how a community-based Kindness Campaign was organized in Colorado Springs as a model for other cities. If you would like to purchase this book, please contact Barry directly.
Kindness Campaign: Kind Beginnings
The guide, available in downloadable ebook format, contains over 45 field-tested activities for promoting kindness and respect among pre-schoolers. Designed to shift the classroom atmosphere from negative to positive.
Raising Kind Kids
This guide, available in downloadable e-book format, provides 25 field-tested activities for parents who want to promote kindness and respect in their family. Activities are for all ages. This book can easily shift your family experience from a negative one to a positive one. Highly recommended for addressing sibling put-downs and family bullying.
Rush to Judgment
This play, available in downloadable e-book format, is a courtroom drama for high school and college drama groups to perform for the community. The premise of the play is that the Columbine killers are captured and put on trial. The testimony, drawn from factual sources, shows the effects of the culture of violence on a school setting. The audience becomes the jury and after witnessing the testimony, votes on the guilt or innocence of the defendants. Good consciousness raising tool. Helps members of the audience better understand the causes of school shootings and what they need to do to prevent them.